Long known for her provocative outfits and ever-changing appearance, American singer Christina Aguilera has re-emerged after a six-year music hiatus with a new look and fresh career plans.
Posing for Paper magazine, the platinum blonde – who is typically known for her perpetually red lips – went makeup-free for the first time since she broke onto the music scene with her 1999 hit single Genie in a Bottle.
The 37-year-old’s pared-back appearance stunned her fans, who can still recall her Dirrty-era dreadlocks and leather chaps, as well as the 1950s-style frocks and curls she sported after the release of her 2006 album Back to Basics.
With her freckles in full view, bare lips and lightly curled hair, the low-key Paper shoot is a stark contrast to when fans last saw Aguilera, at the 2017 American Music Awards to give a rare performance in memory of Whitney Houston.
Wearing a plunging black tuxedo dress with slicked-back hair, statement earrings and a full face of makeup, Aguilera belted out I Will Always Love You, reminding people of why she became famous in the first place: her impressive four-octave vocal range.
But in her Paper interview, Aguilera insists the all-natural look is not here to stay.
“I’m a girl that likes a beat face, let’s not get it twisted,” she joked.
A five-time Grammy winner, Aguilera has had diminishing musical success in recent years having released her last album, Lotus, to little fanfare in 2012.
In January this year, however, she teased the prospect of new music on her Instagram account writing, “It’s coming bitches” to her 4.6 million followers.
That’s not to suggest Aguilera has been unproductive during her music-making hiatus – she was a coach for six seasons on the popular US reality show The Voice from 2011 to 2016, during which time she reportedly earned upwards of $US10 million a season.
She’s also mother to son Max Liron Bratman, 10, from her first marriage to ex-husband Jordan Bratman, and daughter Summer Rain Rutler, 3, from her relationship with fiance Matthew Rutler.
Aguilera isn’t averse to acting either, having starred in the cheesy but loveable Burlesque in 2010 and voicing a character in 2017’s The Emoji Movie.
In the wide-ranging Paper interview, Aguilera reflected on her nearly two-decade career and the backlash she received in her early days for wearing suggestive clothing and singing about female sexuality and empowerment.
Her occasionally X-rated music videos and lyrics saw male musicians at the time, like Eminem and Fred Durst, shame her and the media lambaste her for being too sexual.
Speaking about today’s music stars, Aguilera said: “They don’t have as much backlash when they come out on the scene. And I did. It was a very interesting and controversial time for me.
“Either women are not sexual enough or we’re not fulfilling enough of a fantasy for you, but then if we’re overtly sexual or feeling empowered in a certain kind of way, then we’re shamed for it.”
Should Aguilera choose to stage a musical comeback, she would be joining other early-2000s stars who have returned to the stage or recording studio this year, like Justin Timberlake, who released his album Man of the Woods in January, Shania Twain, who will tour Australia this year, and the Spice Girls, who are rumoured to be reuniting to perform at the royal wedding in May.